Regulator launches investigation into Wickepin bushfire

Enormous orange flames engulf bushland in Wickepin fire
Image: The West Australian

Western Australia’s energy regulator has launched an investigation into the Wickepin bushfire that destroyed 18,173ha of farmland and native bushland in February, according to ABC News.

It follows a separate investigation by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, which concluded the Wickepin fire was caused by clashing overhead power conductors run by network operator Western Power.

Related article: Western Power fined for electric shock error

The state government will investigate the power system’s role in the fire and whether the overhead lines are safe.

“We’re looking at the seriousness and causation,” Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety’s Matthew Peacock told ABC News.

“We need to remain neutral and we want to respect all parties. A thorough examination of the scene has been undertaken and there’s still a number of steps to be undertaken as part of our investigation.”

The Wickepin blaze killed thousands of livestock and destroyed two homes, with Yilliminning farmer Troy Smith losing much of his farm and more than 600 sheep.

Smith stopped short of blaming Western Power for the fire but said something had to be done about the state of local electricity infrastructure.

“Western Power needs to put their heads together,” he said.

“All power providers need to get together and work out what’s actually happening.

“We shouldn’t have to be worried every time there’s a strong wind and a hot day, [and think] ‘where’s the fire going to start?’.”

Related article: Western Power senior exec allegedly filmed coughing on train passengers

Another farmer, Michael Lange, labelled the powerlines an “accident waiting to happen”.

A Western Power spokesperson told ABC News its regional network was safe and adequately maintained, with the operator spending more than $200 million on maintenance last year.

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